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The Butler Family
by Mary Butler


The Butler name is of Norman origin, coming to the British Isles from Normandy (France) with William the Conqueror in 1066. Since the people of Normandy were descended from the Norsemen who migrated to that area of France 500 years earlier, it seems logical historically to conclude that our earliest ancestors were Vikings.

We may or may not stem from the Butler (Le Boutelier) whose ceremonial duties as wine steward to Duke William gave him his name and a coat of arms showing three wine cups. County Tipperary was Butler country, but our forebears left there to go north to County Antrim, Ulster. Here, in the mid 1700’s a Butler named Daniel or James or John fathered two sons. One was called Johnny the tailor (he must have been one!).1

The other was named James, and about him we can be certain since he came to the United States as an old man and was buried in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.2

James was married twice. One of his sons, Daniel (1833-1899), left Antrim for Scotland and later England at a time when the potato famine was killing hundreds of thousands of Irishmen or forcing them to emigrate. Daniel became a weaver in Rochdale, England.3 The weavers were the aristocrats of the workmen in the industrial revolution, which began about 1790 in the textile industry, with Rochdale as one of its centers. Here, in a church which is still standing and is now used as a parish hall, Daniel Butler married Mary Connolly (1843-1914), a dressmaker’s apprentice, in 1861.

Mary, born in Airdrie, Scotland, was the daughter of James Connolly and his first wife, who was Scottish and a convert to Catholicism. James Connolly took for his second wife Charlotte Butler, daughter of James Butler and half-sister of Daniel.4 Thus, when Mary Connolly married her stepmother’s half-brother, Daniel Butler, she became her father’s half-sister-in-law and her own step-aunt! (Mary’s full brother, James, a stone cutter, was to become the father of Mary Connolly Lea, Charles Connolly, and Alicia Connolly Gorton).

Daniel and Mary Butler spent the early years of their marriage in Rochdale, where four of their children were born; two of these died. Daniel became active in the Fenian movement, working for Irish independence until he was forced to leave England with "a price on his head" in 1869. He emigrated to the United States, to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, to make a new home for his family. Mary joined him in 1870, bring her father-in-law, James, and her two young children, Katherine and James. Daniel worked for a while as a miner before going into the hotel business.5 He and Mary had six more children, of whom only Elizabeth and John grew to maturity. Three of the children who died were carried off by scarlet fever in a single week. Daniel’s sister, Sarah Murray, on a visit from her home in Syracuse, New York was said to have brought the infection with her.6

Daniel Butler died of apoplexy in 1899. Mary, a lovely lady in her stiff black silk dresses and custom-made little black bonnets, lived until 1914 when she died of a stroke. Three of their four children who grew to adulthood died in middle age; John, who died at 87, lived longer than any of his known forebears. Twenty-two children were born to the two sons and two daughters of Daniel and Mary Butler.




NOTE: I hope you’ll find this helpful as a base for your own historical research. If you can make any corrections or additions, please let me know.

Mary Butler
Monessen, Pennsylvania

(With secretarial assistance by Betty Butler Ruppel)


1. This information about Johnny the tailor was obtained from Roger (Roddy) Butler of Larimer, son of Daniel and greatgrandson of Johnny the tailor. [Back to text]

2. John F. Butler was the source for this statement. [Back to text]

3. John F. Butler was the source for this statement. Margaret Butler disagrees, quoting Charles Connolly as having said that Daniel was a stone cutter, making decorative details for facades of buildings. [Back to text]

4. Alicia Connolly Gorton was the source for this statement. (She accompanied me in 1950 to the church in Rochdale where Daniel and Mary Butler were married. On this trip I met Lottie Connolly Brooks, granddaughter of Charlotte and my "double cousin," Alicia said). [Back to text]

5. John F. Butler and Alicia Gorton were the sources for this statement. Margaret Butler, whose source was Charles Connolly and perhaps others, has this very different version:

"Daniel Butler was a widower and the father of twin girls when he married Mary Connolly. They returned to Scotland after their marriage in Rochdale. Daniel's twin girls may have been the two children who died in the Old Country. Daniel left Scotland with "a price on his head," and Mary later followed him to McKeesport accompanied by her brother Felix and her children, Katherine and James. Daniel worked as a stone cutter before going into the hotel business." [Back to text]

6. Margaret Butler's recollection is that Sarah, with.her own children, had just arrived from Europe. Some of the Murray children, too, died in this terrible week. [Back to text]

Updated on Saturday, 01-Jul-2000 18:08:54 MDT